Armando Marsal (@Armando_Marsal) analyzes Wild Card Round NFL Gameday Matchups and lets you know who’s in a tough spot, who’s in a soft one, who’s hurt and anything else you need to know before you set your lineups! He will include his top plays and secondary options from each game.
2020 DVOA STATS
Saturday, January 8th
Buffalo Bills vs. Indianapolis Colts
The Colts and Bills game has one of the highest implied totals of the weekend at 51 points. Buffalo is favored by six points after opening up as seven-point favorites. The Colts enter this contest ranked seventh in overall defense according to DVOA, eighth in pass defense DVOA, and ninth in rush defense DVOA. Buffalo ranks 12th in overall defense according to DVOA, 12th in pass defense DVOA, and 17th in rush defense DVOA.
We have some injury news to monitor for the Bills as both Stefon Diggs (oblique) and Cole Beasley (knee) are considered questionable. Diggs is fully expected to play in this contest, but Beasley did sit out Tuesday’s and Wednesday’s practices, before turning in a limited session on Thursday. Beasley missed the final game of the season with the knee injury, though it was a game with little on the line. John Brown returned to action in the final game of the week, catching all four of his targets for 72 yards and a touchdown. He is healthy and will suit up for this contest. As far as the Colts are concerned, defensive tackle DeForest Buckner is listed as questionable for this contest, though he is expected to play. His status is key for their defense, as he is a big part of it.
Josh Allen ended his fantastic season on a high note, with at least three total touchdowns in each of his final three games. The matchup against the Colts might not appear ideal on paper, being that this unit allowed the 12th fewest passing touchdowns, fewer than 20 fantasy points per game to quarterbacks, and 255 passing yards per game on the season. That said, they did allow five rushing touchdowns to the position this season, which is tied for ninth most. Not to mention, this Colts defense did become more susceptible to the pass late in the season, allowing 300+ passing yards, along with two or more passing touchdowns in four of their final five games. As you can see, as good as the Colts defense was throughout the season, they showed that they can be beat through the air. I still respect this unit a ton, but the Bills offense has been firing on all cylinders this season and are a tough unit to shut down. I would not expect a ceiling game from Allen this weekend, though I do think he could turn in a productive outing and consider him a strong play.
Assuming both Diggs and Beasley play, they are both viable options. Of the two, Diggs is expected to face off against T.J. Carrie, who had a good season, but did allow a QB rating of 100+ when targeted in four of his last six games. Diggs can run short routes, deep routes, and intermediate routes well, making him a tough receiver to defend. He led the league in receiving yards this season and finished with a league high 127 receptions on 166 targets. The type of volume he gets on a consistent basis is tough to pass up on, even in a matchup that is not perfect. He is the most expensive receiver on the slate, so he is pricey, but he also offers an immense ceiling with an incredible floor. The matchup could be better, but that does not mean that Diggs will not be able to get the job done.
From Week 10 on, Beasley saw 10 or more targets in all but two games that he played. His role increased in a big way towards the second half of the season and he became Allen’s go-to receiver when a first down was needed a lot of the time. He is expected to draw coverage from Kenny Moore who had a good season this year, though did allow a 72 percent catch rate. Again, this Colts secondary has played well, but they are not unbeatable. The major concern for me with Beasley is his knee and just how efficient he will be at less than 100 percent.
Brown is an intriguing tournament play this weekend considering he is crazy cheap and offers a pretty high ceiling. He missed a lot of time this year with injuries, but in each of the last three games that he played in, he topped 70 receiving yards and scored one touchdown. He will see coverage from Xavier Rhodes who had a good season, which is not ideal for Brown. Though, Brown’s speed and ability to make a big play is something that he can do against any corner. How much volume Brown will receive this weekend is not known, but at his price, it is difficult not to have interest in GPP’s.
The Colts run defense is elite and this is not a unit I want to target with opposing running backs. Even less so with a backfield where the carries are split. Indy allowed just 73.1 rushing yards per game and 3.7 YPC to running backs this season, while yielding the ninth fewest rushing touchdowns. Neither Zack Moss nor Devin Singletary get enough consistent volume to be considered, especially against a stout run defense like this one.
Jonathan Taylor is in a smash spot this weekend, as the Bills really struggled against opposing backs. This unit allowed a healthy 4.5 YPC as well as 96.9 rushing yards per game to running backs, to go along with the eighth most rushing touchdowns. In addition, they gave up 76 receptions for 594 yards and a 77 percent catch rate to the position. Taylor was one of the best running backs in football from Week 11 on. In fact, he was RB5 in DK scoring during that stretch. This is a matchup that he should be able to take full advantage of and smash in. The only concern is whether the Colts can keep up with the Bills and don’t fall too behind early on. I don’t think that will be the case and believe that Taylor is one of the best running back options on the slate this weekend.
If you think the Colts do fall behind early and are going to be playing catchup, Nyheim Hines is someone you can consider. Hines quietly finished with the third most targets and third most receptions among running backs this season. He will have a role in this contest regardless of the game script, but he makes more sense for those who think the Colts will be playing with a big deficit in this one.
Philip Rivers showed flashes of his old self a few times this season, but truth be told, the Colts prefer to run the ball here and not rely on his arm. The Bills are not an easy team to pass on either. They allowed the 11th fewest yards per game, the ninth fewest touchdowns passes, and the 10th lowest completion percentage to opposing quarterbacks. Rivers topped 300 passing yards in just three contests this year, though he did throw multiple touchdowns in five of his seven last games. The ceiling is not that high here for Rivers and the floor is a bit more volatile than most other signal callers on the slate.
The Colts receivers have a tough matchup at hand this week against a tough Bills secondary. If I go here, it will be with Zach Pascal, who led the team in routes run and receiving yards in the final three weeks of the season. Pascal also finished second in targets and in receptions during that stretch, while scoring three touchdowns. The matchup is not great against Taron Johnson who allowed just one touchdown on 84 targets this season. That said, Pascal is extremely cheap on DK at just $3700 and could be considered as a flier in tournaments.
TOP PLAYS (priority plays in bold) : Jonathan Taylor, Josh Allen, Stefon Diggs
SECONDARY OPTIONS: Cole Beasley, John Brown, Zach Pascal, Nyheim Hines
Seattle Seahawks vs. Los Angeles Rams
This will be the third time this season that these two teams face off. They split the season, as each team won a game. In their first meeting, the Rams won 23-16 and in their second meeting the Seahawks won 20-9. The matchup this weekend has an over/under of 42.5 points and if their meetings throughout the season are an indication of what to expect, it looks like the under is a good bet here. Seattle is favored by 3.5 points after opening up as 4.5-point favorites.
The Rams defense is legit, they rank fourth in overall defense according to DVOA, fourth in pass defense DVOA, and third in rush defense DVOA. Seattle ranks 16th in overall defense according to DVOA, 20th in pass defense DVOA, and seventh in rush defense DVOA.
On the injury front, Jared Goff is listed as questionable due to his thumb injury. If he cannot give it a go, the Rams will deploy John Wolford at quarterback. The Seahawks are expected to have all hands on deck this week.
Russell Wilson cooled off in the second half of the season after a strong start. This week he faces a Rams pass defense that has been stout. This unit allowed the second fewest passing yards per game, the fewest passing touchdowns, and the fifth fewest completion percentage to opposing signal callers. Only one quarterback topped 300 passing yards this season against the Rams, while all other quarterbacks failed to eclipse 268 passing yards. Wilson combined for 473 passing yards, one passing touchdown, and two interceptions against this unit in their two meetings. He has struggled in a big way against them the last three games they have faced off, though he did torch them for three or more touchdown passes in the three games prior to those. Wilson is not someone I would recommend in cash this weekend, but he is certainly a viable GPP option.
D.K. Metcalf feels too cheap for his ability, but it makes sense considering that he will face off against the elite Jalen Ramsey. In two meetings against each other this year, Ramsey has gotten the best out of Metcalf, holding him to eight catches for 87 yards and no touchdowns on 12 targets. Metcalf has the ability to make a big play at any point against any corner, however, this is certainly a difficult matchup for him. I can’t recommend him in cash, but at low ownership and at his price tag on both sites, it’s difficult not to have interest in him in GPP’s.
Tyler Lockett has too struggled against this Rams defense this season, catching eight passes for 110 yards and no touchdowns on 14 targets in their two meetings. Lockett had a strong final game of the season, catching 12-of-14 passes for 90 yards and two touchdowns against the Niners. He has been extremely volatile this season and makes for a high variance tournament play at best. On DK where he is more expensive than Metcalf, I have no interest in Lockett. Even on FD, he is just $100 cheaper and if I decide to play any of these receivers, I’d rather take the upside for $100 on Metcalf.
The Seahawks player I am interested in is Chris Carson. Not only do I think he goes completely overlooked, but he should see plenty of touches in this contest. Don’t get me wrong, the Rams are good against the run as well, but from Week 8 on, they allowed running backs to find the end zone in all but two games. Carson comes in at a very reasonable DK price this weekend and should see 15+ touches in this contest. The last time these two teams faced off, he ran for 69 yards on 16 carries and caught three passes for 10 yards. Granted, if we roster him, we want more than that, but I’m more attracted to the 19 touches than the production outcome of that game.
The Rams quarterback situation is one that will place a lot of emphasis on how we approach this offense, though both Cooper Kupp and Robert Woods are in good spots. Seattle’s defense played better down the stretch, but this is still a secondary that can be beat.
Of the two, I lean Kupp who despite missing a game, finished one target short of the team lead in targets for the season. Kupp also finished with the most receptions and most receiving yards for the Rams. In two games against the Seahawks this year, Kupp caught 13 passes for 116 yards and no touchdowns on 16 targets. The matchup is a beatable one for sure and although a ceiling game is unlikely, a productive stat line is not out of the realm of possibilities. This is a game that the Rams are expected to chase points in, so Kupp should see plenty of targets here.
The same thing can be said about Woods who had a strong year, though cooled down in the final month of the season. Woods didn’t play well against Seattle this season, finishing with fewer than 50 receiving yards in each of their two meetings and catching a total of nine passes on 15 targets. He has scored just two touchdowns in nine career games against Seattle. That said, the volume should be there for him this weekend and this is a beatable matchup.
Regardless of who is under center for the Rams this weekend, it’s tough to envision that quarterback as more than a secondary play. The Seahawks allowed 300.7 passing yards per game on the season, but from Week 11 on, no quarterback threw for more than 295 passing yards against them. Not to mention, after allowing 16 passing touchdowns in the first 10 weeks of the season, this unit surrendered seven passing touchdowns the rest of the year. Yes, they had a much better schedule, but this defense is playing better football than they were earlier in the year.
Cam Akers returned to action last week after missing a game with an ankle injury and ran for 34 yards on 21 carries. He also tacked on 52 receiving yards, while catching all four of his targets. This week’s matchup against the Seahawks is a tough one for Akers, as this unit is stingy against opposing running backs. Seattle allowed just 73.8 rushing yards per game to running backs this season, to go along with 3.9 YPC. They did give up the 11th most rushing touchdowns and the third most receiving touchdowns to the position, so there is a path to production here for Akers. With that said, the game script will potentially not favor the running game for the Rams here.
Overall, this is not a game I am overly excited about outside of GPP fliers at low ownership. It is certainly one I will not consider rostering players from for cash.
TOP PLAYS (priority plays in bold) : Chris Carson, Cooper Kupp, Robert Woods
SECONDARY OPTIONS: Russell Wilson, D.K. Metcalf, Tyler Lockett, Cam Akers, Rams QB, Seahawks DEF, Rams DEF
Washington Football Team vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Buccaneers head to Washington to take on the Football Team. This contest has an implied total of 44.5 points, which is two points down from what it opened at. The Bucs are an eight-point favorite, making them the second biggest favorites on the weekend. Both of these defenses are incredibly good. Tampa Bay ranks fifth in overall defense according to DVOA, fifth in pass defense DVOA, and first in rush defense DVOA. Washington ranks third in overall defense according to DVOA, second in pass defense DVOA, and 11th in rush defense DVOA.
On the injury news front, Alex Smith is listed as questionable for this contest with a calf injury. The latest report suggested that the team is pessimistic about his availability for this game. Taylor Heinicke would start in Smith’s place if he can’t go. Terry McLaurin is also questionable for this matchup as he battles an ankle injury. Though, he is fully expected to play. The same can be said about Antonio Gibson who has the questionable tag heading into Saturday but is fully expected to suit up. On the Bucs side, Mike Evans is considered a game-time decision as he battles a knee injury.
Tom Brady has a tough matchup at hand against a good pass rushing defense and one that will bring the pressure. That said, it’s the post season and it’s where Brady plays his best football. He had an incredible run to close out the season too, so he is coming into the post season on fire. Granted, his schedule was soft, and the matchups were beefcake like my guy Thad would say, but still, you don’t want to face a Brady that is on fire in the post season. Washington did a great job defending the pass this season, allowing the fewest passing yards per game, the third lowest completion percentage, and the second fewest passing yards. It’s unlikely that Brady throws for 300+ yards and two or more touchdown passes like we saw him do in the final three games of the season. However, I’m projecting Brady for 260 passing yards and a pair of touchdowns here, with the potential upside for more. If you are playing the Saturday only slate, Brady grades out as the second best quarterback on that slate for me.
As I mentioned above, Evans is dealing with a knee injury and is considered questionable. If he plays and is a full-go, he is a strong play. Evans led the Bucs in routes run, targets, receptions, and receiving yards. He was also the top targeted player on the team inside the 20-yard line with 18 red zone targets, good for 23 percent of the target share in this part of the field. The matchup against Kendall Fuller is not great, but it is one that Evans could beat. We saw Evans put up some big numbers against tough corners this season and there is no reason to think he can’t do so again. I currently have him listed as a top play, but that is only if he is a full-go and will not be on a snap count. Make sure you check his status before locking him in.
Chris Godwin is another Bucs receiver I am digging this week. He had a nice ending to the season, scoring four touchdowns in his final three games of the year. He finished number two in routes run, targets, receptions, and receiving yards among Bucs pass catchers. He is expected to see plenty of Jimmy Moreland, which is the best matchup among all Bucs receivers. Moreland allowed a healthy 71.8 percent catch rate this season to opposing pass catchers. Godwin is my favorite Bucs receiver this weekend and I like the idea of stacking him up with Brady.
It’s the post season and that means the Brady will be relying on Rob Gronkowski in key situations. Gronk finished 10th in receiving yards and sixth in receiving touchdowns among tight ends, while finishing eighth in fantasy points in PPR formats. He ran the third most routes in Tampa Bay and finished third in targets, receptions, and receiving yards. Gronk was Brady’s second favorite target in the red zone too, as he finished with 14 red zone targets, good for 18 percent of the target share in this part of the field. Washington was not overly generous to opposing tight ends, but they did allow the 16th most touchdown receptions to the position. In 16 career post season games, Gronk has 12 touchdowns. He is my favorite tight end play on the Saturday slate and one of my favorites on the weekend slate as well.
Ronald Jones should do the heavy lifting for the Bucs backfield, but this is not a great matchup for him. Washington allowed just 83.4 rushing yards per game to running backs this season and 3.9 YPC. They did become a bit more vulnerable towards the end of the season, giving up 99 or more rushing yards in two of their last four games and three rushing touchdowns during that timeframe, but for most of the season they have been tough to run against. Jones comes in at a cheap price and is certainly viable this weekend. However, I prefer the Bucs passing game over their run game in this contest.
You will see that I have J.D. McKissic listed as a top play and Antonio Gibson as a secondary play. I know that this will be contrary to how most view it, but there is a method to my madness. The reasoning here is that I expect the Bucs to be playing with a lead here and Washington to be chasing points. In addition, The Bucs are extremely tough against the run, allowing the fewest rushing yards per game and the lowest YPC to running backs this season. However, they did allow the most receptions, ninth most receiving yards, and the third highest catch rate to the position. McKissic led all running backs in targets this season and finished with the second most receptions. He had eight or more targets and at least five receptions in four of his last five games. Gibson is still dealing with that toe injury too, which is concerning to me. Yes, he played the last two games and in one of them ran well, but the matchup at hand is far more difficult and the game script is likely not going to favor him. We also get McKissic at a much cheaper price than Gibson. McKissic is much more valuable on DK where it’s a full point per reception but is viable on all sites.
Terry McLaurin should suit up in this contest and does face off against a Bucs secondary that has been tough, but one that has also been burned a few times this season. Tampa Bay allowed the fifth most receptions, 14th most receiving yards, 12th most receiving touchdowns, and the seventh highest catch rate to opposing wideouts. McLaurin accounted for 25 percent of Washington’s target share during the regular season, so he should see plenty of targets in this contest, a game that they are likely playing from behind. The matchup itself is not great, but the volume will be there for McLaurin this weekend.
If you decide not to roster Gronk on the Saturday slate, Logan Thomas is your next best option. On the main slate however, I have him as a secondary option. He was a huge part of Washington’s passing game, accounting for 19 percent of the target share. Early in the season, he struggled a bit, but really made a turn towards the end of the season, turning in consistent production in the final six weeks of the season. The Bucs did allow the seventh most receiving touchdowns to tight ends this season, along with the sixth highest catch rate. Considering that Washington is expected to chase points here, Thomas should see plenty of volume in this contest.
TOP PLAYS (priority plays in bold): Tom Brady, Rob Gronkowski, Chris Godwin, Mike Evans, J.D. McKissic, Terry McLaurin
SECONDARY OPTIONS: Antonio Brown, Ronald Jones, Antonio Gibson, Logan Thomas, Buccaneers defense
Sunday, January 9th
Tennessee Titans vs. Baltimore Ravens
The Ravens and Titans face off in what Vegas expects to be the highest scoring game of the weekend at a 54-5 implied total. The Ravens are favored in this one by 3.5 points a spread that hasn’t moved since it opened. Baltimore enters this game ranked ninth in overall defense according to DVOA, 10th in pass defense DVOA, and 12th in rush defense DVOA. Tennessee ranks 29th in overall defense according to DVOA, 30th in pass defense DVOA, and 16th in rush defense DVOA.
On the injury front, Willie Snead continues to deal with an ankle injury and is considered questionable. As far as the Titans are concerned, Rodger Saffold and A.J. Brown are both expected to play.
Lamar Jackson is not only my favorite play in this game, but one of my favorite plays on the entire weekend slate. He shifted gears in the final five games of the season, turning in some very strong performances. Jackson had three or more total touchdowns and rushed for at least 80 yards in four of those last five games. He draws a fantastic matchup against a Titans defense that gave up the fourth most passing yards and second most passing touchdowns to opposing quarterbacks this season. Jackson is in a position to absolutely carve up this defense and is in a smash spot. He is a viable option in all formats this weekend.
Stacking Jackson up with Mark Andrews is one way you can go here. Andrews didn’t quite have the season he did last year but was still a big part of the Ravens passing game, accounting for 25 percent of the target share in Baltimore. The matchup is one that he should exploit here, as the Titans allowed the highest catch rate percentage to opposing tight ends and eight receiving touchdowns to the position. Andrews is the most expensive tight end on the weekend slate, but he is not overly expensive, so you can certainly fit him in. I’m totally fine with him in all formats this weekend.
Marquise Brown has a strong six-game stretch to close out the season, finding the end zone at least once in all but one game. He is in a good situation to continue that streak this weekend against a soft Titans defense. Tennessee allowed the fourth most receiving yards, second most receptions, and third most receiving touchdowns to opposing receivers. Brown has the speed to get behind any defense and this is a great game environment, plus matchup for him to continue playing well.
Another Ravens Player I like quite a bit here this weekend is J.K. Dobbins. The Titans are much worse against the pass than they are against the run, but they are still generous to running backs. They are giving up 99.5 rushing yards per game and 4.6 YPC to the position, while allowing the sixth most rushing touchdowns. In addition, they allowed the third most receiving touchdowns to running backs this season. Dobbins closed out the regular season with a streak of six consecutive games scoring a touchdown. The rookie looks to extend that streak this weekend against a beatable Titans run defense.
Derrick Henry is arguably the best running back playing this weekend, but that does not necessarily mean he is the best DFS option. Look, this guy is a beast, and he can get the job done against pretty much any defense, like we have seen him do before. That said, the Ravens defense is not one that gives up a ton to running backs. They surrendered the fewest rushing touchdowns and 13th fewest yards this season to the position. In addition, if the Ravens get out to an early lead, we know Henry is not a pass catcher out of the backfield. He remains a top play considering his upside and the volume he could get here if this game stays close, but I am tempering expectations here for Henry in what is a difficult matchup.
Another player who faces a tough matchup is A.J. Brown, as he is expected to draw coverage from Jimmy Smith who did not allow a touchdown reception this season. In addition, quarterbacks averaged a low 64.9 QB rating when targeting Smith. Brown is a grown ass man however and has made plenty of corner backs look silly. Plus, this is a game where we could see the Titans chasing points, which would lead to heavy volume. I don’t trust Brown in cash games but do think you can consider him in tournaments despite the difficult matchup.
TOP PLAYS (priority plays in bold) : Lamar Jackson, Mark Andrews, Marquise Brown, J.K. Dobbins, Derrick Henry
SECONDARY OPTIONS: A.J. Brown, Ryan Tannehill, Corey Davis, Jonnu Smith
New Orleans Saints vs. Chicago Bears
The Saints and Bears face off on Sunday afternoon in what is expected to be the most lopsided game on the slate. This contest has an over/under of 47 points and the Saints are favored by 10.5 points. New Orleans enters this contest ranked second in overall defense according to DVOA, third in pass defense DVOA, and second in rush defense DVOA. Chicago enters this contest ranked eighth in overall defense according to DVOA, 13th in pass defense DVOA, and fourth in rush defense DVOA.
The Bears will be without Buster Skrine in the secondary and both Jaylon Johnson and Roquan Smith are also listed as questionable. Allen Robinson is battling a hamstring injury and is considered questionable for this contest, though he is expected to play. Darnell Mooney is battling an ankle injury and his status is up in the air as well. The Saints are expected to have both Alvin Kamara and Michael Thomas back this weekend, which is huge for this offense.
For me, this is all about the Saints offense this weekend. Drew Brees pops out as one of the best quarterback plays on the week considering how beat up this secondary is. Pairing him up with Michael Thomas (assuming he is a full-go) is the way to go about it. These two should be able to light up this secondary and post up big numbers. This is one of my favorite stacks on the weekend, and they are viable in all formats.
Kamara returning also gives Brees a boost here, as he will be catching passes out of the backfield. The Bears were fairly good against the run, but they were far from elite and tend to give up big yards at times. Kamara’s role in this offense gives him an incredibly high floor with an immense ceiling, so he is viable in all formats too. A three-man Saints stack is certainly something to consider here.
You can consider some of the other pass catchers for the Saints here, such as Jared Cook and Emmanuel Sanders, but I consider them more of secondary options in this contest.
On the Bears side, it is Allen Robinson or bust for me. He should see all the targets he can handle this week considering that the Bears are going to play from behind. He should see plenty of coverage from Marshon Lattimore who got torched for seven touchdowns this season and allowed a QB rating of 103.3 when targeted against. Robinson accounted for 25 percent of the Bears target share this season, averaging 9.4 targets per game. There is a good chance that Robinson gets peppered with 10+ targets this weekend, something we saw happen three times in the final six games of the season.
David Montgomery had a spectacular run in his final six games of the season. He totaled over 100 yards and scored at least one touchdown in each of those contests, scoring fewer than 27 DK points just once during that stretch and never less than 20 DK points. That said, this week he faces a tough run defense. The Saints allowed the seventh fewest rushing yards and seventh fewest rushing touchdowns to opposing running backs. They did become a bit more susceptible against the run towards the last month of the season, giving up six of the nine rushing touchdowns they allowed during that stretch and at least 90 rushing yards in three of those four games. That said, the game script will likely force the Bears to abandon the run and lean on the pass. Montgomery is the fourth most expensive back on the slate and faces the worst situation considering matchup and potential game script. Therefore, I prefer him as a secondary option this week and in tournaments only.
TOP PLAYS (priority plays in bold) : Drew Brees, Alvin Kamara, Michael Thomas, Allen Robinson, Saints defense
SECONDARY OPTIONS: David Montgomery, Jared Cook, Emmanuel Sanders
Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Cleveland Browns
The Steelers and Browns will face off for the third time this season. The series was split in the regular season, though in Week 17, the Steelers rested players. This contest has a 47-point over/under with the Steelers being six-point favorites. Pittsburgh enters this contest ranked first in overall defense according to DVOA, first in pass defense DVOA, and fifth in rush defense DVOA. The Browns on the other hand are not as good defensively. They rank 25th in overall defense according to DVOA, 25th in pass defense DVOA, and 19th in rush defense DVOA.
The big news here is that the Browns coach Kevin Stefanski tested positive for COVID-19 and will be unable to be at the game. That is not an ideal situation for Cleveland who is making their first playoff appearance since 2002. They will also be without offensive linemen Joel Bitonio and Nick Harris. Lastly, safety Ronnie Harrison will sit this one out as well. From the Steelers side, JuJu Smith-Schuster is dealing with a knee injury and is considered questionable for this contest.
Ben Roethlisberger is appealing to me in this matchup, as this is a defense that allowed the 12th most passing yards and eighth most passing touchdowns to opposing signal callers this season. In addition, the Browns allowed multiple touchdown passes in all but two of their final seven games of the season. After sitting in Week 17, Big Ben should be nice and rested, ready to carve up this secondary. He is not someone I feel great about in cash but do think he makes for a strong and low-owned GPP play this weekend.
My top option to pair up with Big Ben is Diontae Johnson, who despite dealing with injuries this season, led the team with a 23 percent target share. From Week 9 on, Johnson saw double-digit targets in all but one contest. In the final game of the season, he caught 3-of-4 passes for 96 yards against this Browns defense and that was without Big Ben under center. Johnson is expected to face off against Terrence Mitchell, who down the stretch struggled a bit, giving up a touchdown in three of the final five games.
I also like the idea of pairing Big Ben up with Smith-Schuster, assuming he suits up with no limitations. Smith-Schuster accounted for 20 percent of the Steelers target share this season, leading the team in receptions and finishing with nine receiving touchdowns (tied for most on the offense). From Week 9 on, he scored a touchdown in all but three games. Rolling out a three-man Steelers stacks in tournaments is not something I’m opposed to. I am totally fine with Johnson and Smith-Schuster in cash this weekend, though I would not want to play them both in same lineup in cash games.
I really want to have more interest in James Conner this weekend, but his usage in the second half of the season when he played was not great. I mean, 13 or fewer rush attempts from Week 9 on in any games he was active. I like that fact that he had 14 touches in Week 17, as that could be a sign of more touches coming his way in the post season, but until I see it, I can’t trust him in cash. That said, in tournaments, I am all about jamming Conner in where you don’t play the Steelers passing game. He is just too cheap for me not to consider, given his upside.
On the Browns side, I will always consider Nick Chubb when he is on the slate. He is arguably the best pound for pound running back in football. The problem is here that they are missing some offensive linemen and this game script is not expected to favor the Browns run game. That said, if this game does stay close, it will have a lot to do with the fact that Chubb is running well and keeping the Steelers offense off the field. He is still one of the top plays from this game, but I will not consider him in cash, only in tournaments.
Jarvis Landry topped 88 receiving yards once this season, so he is far from an elite receiver. That said, he did see plenty of targets down the stretch, with eight or more targets in all but one of his finals five games of the season. This is far from a great matchup for him but given the fact that the Browns are expected to chase points, Landry could see a ton of targets in this contest. Finishing with 6-7 receptions for 60-70 yards this weekend is very possible for Landry.
TOP PLAYS (priority plays in bold) : Ben Roethlisberger, Diontae Johnson, JuJu Smith-Schuster, Nick Chubb, Steelers defense
SECONDARY OPTIONS: James Conner, Jarvis Landry, Chase Claypool, Eric Ebron, Kareem Hunt, Austin Hooper